I am still chewing on the tasty gristle of last week’s Mind Meld on monarchism in fantasy fiction. I can’t get the subject out of my mind, to the point where I have started to assemble a bibliography for a longer analysis of monarchies in epic fantasy. I think that the respondents made some good points, but the post as a whole affirmed for me how tightly a certain idea of monarchy tends to throttle our fantasies. One aspect of the responses that confirmed this for me was the poverty of alternatives that people could recall from the literature, but another was the falling-back on certain ideas about the foundations of fantasy that indicated a very limited vision for writing and reading the fiction.
The interlocking elements of simplicity, drama, and domination seem to best characterize the basic use of monarchy in fantasy (mostly of the epic/heroic/high varieties), and while most of the respondents applied this directly to the use of monarchy, I think this more broadly reflective of much of the literature. It’s not just that monarchies are used because they contain these elements, it is that authors like to use these elements to structure and propel their stories. Monarchy as usually applied in these stories complements these qualities, and simultaneously appeals to many popular ideas of the romance and power of kingship. The invocation of fantasy as a genre based in fairy tales reflects this too, with discernible, often uncomplicated characters, melodramatic situations, and demarcated, rigidly hierarchized power relations.